Tradition as a Resource

A Personal Trajectory


  • Michael Hill Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand



religion, Australia, Pacific, academic study


This introductory article reflects on a personal interest in the concept of tradition. Two contrasting sociological approaches to tradition are examined, the first being the structural-functionalist treatment of tradition as embedded and institutionalized, the second the more dynamic Weberian approach to tradition which links it with charismatic breakthroughs. Using the latter, it is possible to speak of a ‘revolution by tradition’ and to indicate different referents of tradition in the Church of England. A recent study of Hawksmoor’s London churches shows the attempted embodiment of primitive tradition in their architecture. In a very different context, Maori prophetic movements in nineteenth-century New Zealand reveal the potential for tradition to provide a charismatic springboard. A third example of the innovative potential of tradition is located in the ‘Asian values’ debate, where a constructed cluster of values surrounding neo-Confucianism can be associated with what is termed ‘reverse Orientalism’. Ideological discourse in Singapore provides an important test of the ‘Asia Values’ model. Finally, features of each article in this special issue are highlighted.

Author Biography

Michael Hill, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Michael Hill is Professor of Sociology at Victoria University of Wellington, and was Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore in 199697. He has published and edited several books in the sociology of religion, including A Sociology of Religion (1973/1987) and has contributed numerous articles and chapters in this area. More recently he has published in the sociology of deviance, especially on the satanism scare and its importation to New Zealand; and on the process of nation building in Singapore, with Lian Kwen Fee he published The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore (1995).


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How to Cite

Hill, M. (2007). Tradition as a Resource: A Personal Trajectory. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 20(1), 27–43.